Striker Pedro Manzi may have a reputation of grabbing the headlines every now and then but on Monday, Chennai City found an unlikely hero in goalkeeper Mauro Boerchio to knock out Bengaluru FC 2-1 in the first quarter-finals of the Super Cup with a nervy win.
In a mouth-watering clash that pitted the champions of the Indian Super League and I-League against each other, the Blues profligacy in front of goal saw their title defence draw curtains.
Although Bengaluru looked threatening during the initial phases, they failed to read the warning signs early on whenever Chennai forwards Sandro Rodrigues, Nestor Gordillo and Manzi tucked in behind the defence with clever runs.
And when centre-back Tarif Akhand dissected defenders Rahul Bheke and Harmanjot Khabra with a long ball in the 14th minute, Gordillo pounced on the opportunity to put his side ahead.
Then came the Boerchio show even while Bengaluru continued to be the most creative outlet. First, an acrobatic effort to palm away Miku’s half-volley followed by a close-range save from Khabra, ten minutes on.
But Italian keeper saved his best for the second half when Carles Cuadrat’s men began to turn the screws. Bengaluru was awarded a penalty in the 51st minute after substitute Alexander Romario Jesuraj tugged Sunil Chhetri inside the box. The Bengaluru striker charged with a long run-up but Boerchio stayed calm and thwarted danger, keeping his side in the game.
While Bengaluru continued to attack with everything they had after the break, they failed to take note of their mistakes and it proved costly. Khabra, in particular, was at fault for Chennai’s second goal, failing to backtrack and Manzi curled his effort past goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
As the game progressed, Bengaluru started building more pressure on the Chennai defence but the I-League champions had Boerchio to bail them out of trouble again. The 6 ft 5’ keeper tipped Dimas Delgado’s header over the bar with a fine save and despite Chhetri scoring late from a set-piece, he denied Bengaluru a vital equaliser, saving a close-range shot from the striker in the 86th minute.
In a game of fine margins, Boerchio proved to be the difference when Chennai City failed to match the attacking quality of their counterparts.
“Mauro has been performing very well for our last couple of games. He has been coming into the picture very well. As you know he just joined us recently. Football is such a wonderful game, a team game. We always talk about Manzi, Sandro and Nestor. Everyone makes the team. Everyone played their part, so I am very happy for Mauro for the part that he played today,” Nawas said after the match.
As the only I-League team in contention for the Super Cup title, Chennai City also displayed with their performance why the proposal of a unified league could turn out to be an interesting proposition.